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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Franklin Expedition – Cultural Spin-Off

The plight of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus has inspired various cultural adaptations in songs, images, and books. Some of these are pretty cool.


Several folk songs have been composed about this tragedy including

  • Lady Franklin’s Lament (recorded by many artists)
  • I’m Already There by Fairport Convention
  • Frozen Man by James Taylor
  • Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers

Each one focuses on a slightly different aspect of the expedition. Lady Franklin’s Lament is about the wife of Franklin lamenting his loss. I’m Already There is about the expedition itself. Frozen Man was inspired by photographs in National Geographic of the body of Franklin Expedition member John Torrington. Northwest Passage is about explorers who tried to find the Northwest Passage with a portion of the song about the Franklin Expedition.


Terrifying, dramatic stories are often portrayed in art – those where the results and actual events are unknown are event more fodder for the imagination.

Man Proposes, God Disposes by Edwin Henry Landseer shows two polar bears chewing on both a ship mast and human bones – both symbols of the Franklin Expedition. This image was initially perceived as being made in poor taste.

Man Proposes God Disposes
Man Proposes, God Disposes by Edwin Henry Landseer

The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church shows an Arctic iceberg scene with a ships mast placed in the foreground in tribute to the Franklin Expedition.

The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church

Both of these are powerful images – although neither shows any actual depictions of the ships.


Besides the obvious, The Terror by Dan Simmons, other books have been written about the Expedition.

  • Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne – where the titular character tries to retrace the steps of the Franklin Expedition.
  • North with Franklin: The Journals of James Fitzjames by John Wilson
  • Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler
  • Wanting by Richard Flanagan
  • Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie
  • The Quest For Franklin by Noel Wright

Hope you have enjoyed this little cultural trek through the terrifying ordeal of the Franklin Expedition (as much as you can a tragedy).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. This is new to me, so I like that you put in so many links. I can now follow up on these stories.


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